Even-Steven Expectations - Part One
My married daughter taught first-grade to her son this year. What a difficult time she had over the winter. Two herniated disks flared up after picking up her other son when he fell. Being pregnant further complicated matters. Her sister drove below the Mason Dixon Line to help her. I've been there to help (between posts) and plan to travel there again. Her husband is a big help. And some church friends brought meals.
All the while my daughter tried to obey her doctor and not do much. Telling a mother of two energetic boys, who like to play cowboys and Indians, to not do much - and while you are supposed to be home teaching - is a remedy hard to follow.
In the midst of this she telephoned me in bewilderment to confess her son's "uneven learning." I did my best to console her.
When it came time for the year-end evaluation she was nervous. (She reports directly to a public school teacher/evaluator three times a school-year.) Being truthful she told the evaluator that because of her physical limitations she had given her first grade student about one hour of formal lessons a day over the winter. (Although, she hadn't mentioned all the informal learning he picked up along the way.)
"Oh, honey," the evaluator told her, "from what I see here, and what you're telling me, you did great." "You homeschoolers worry too much, " she went on. "You shouldn't. You can accomplish far more in one or two hours a morning, at this age, than a classroom can accomplish in a day." This lady smiled when she added, "You aren't the only pregnant mother who's come in here with the same concern." My daughter was relieved. As she walked down the hallway (I should say hobbled) toward the door to leave, she noticed the colorful and happy-looking homeschool artwork this lady had pinned along the wall. They had scripture verses on them.
|I like the rolling, uneven grounds of Ephrata Cloister|
The Object of Lessons
Miss Charlotte Mason points out the object of formal lessons. They should be twofold:
To train a child in certain mental habits, as attention, accuracy, promptness, etc.,
To nourish him with ideas which may bear fruit in his life. *1
|A teacher with students. Swiss painter Albert Anker (1831-1910)|
Incremental learning is advisable. It is especially helpful for math, penmanship, reading and other skills such as spelling. Daily lessons spaced out over weeks and months, show our faithfulness in helping our child gain skills and giving him something to think about.
But when it comes to knowledge for a fruitful life (I explained to my daughter) what the student is learning may not get digested or absorbed evenly. It would be nice if it did. It would conveniently match the objectives of the lesson planner. And it would secure confidence that we were really doing our job - and a good job at that. We would like evidence of that rock-solid phrase we've grown so familiar in hearing: Steady Progress.
|A large bed of lily-of-the-valley thrives in an uneven flower bed.|
Uneven People, Uneven learners
But children aren't necessarily even-learners. If we look at the child's powers of self-education we see that learning often runs contrary to our Even-Steven expectations. What is really going on is that the child learns in spurts. He learns on the go. He can make wide strides one day and go on tippy-toe the next. "I get it," can come after a pause of reflection - after some down time. Or a certain book, painting, person, filed trip, science experiment, nature walk, piece of music, Bible story, etc., may open the door of a child's mind - a door of interest or a door of understanding, that wasn't open before.
A certain vivifying idea may leave an impression, merge-in-the-mind with a batch of other ideas (that seemed to lay dormant before) and now "it makes sense" - it makes wonderful sense. This knowledge-made-personal brings a sparkle to the learner's eye. Derived by uneven learning (and not something proved by any tidbit on a page of multiple-choice) it has left a welcome and meaningful impression - enough of an impression to be one of those delightfully satisfying morsels of knowledge that will bear fruit in the child's life.
The home teacher, who finds that learning isn't matching up to the lesson planner or the teacher's guide might find this uneven-aspect a worry. She might sink into utter exasperation. She might think she is a bad teacher. Or the thought might cross her mind that her student is an odd-ball, is stubborn, disobedient, or has a mental-block. But all the while, what could be taking place is normal uneven-learning by the uneven-people we are. In actuality this mother is probably a diligent and conscientious teacher who would be much encouraged to consider the ways of the Gentle Art of Learning.
End of Part OneThe Gentle Art of Learning trusts in self-education. It is something uneven that takes place on the child's side of the fence. Next time we meet I hope to bring you the second half of this article.
Do you have uneven learners in your home?
Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, page 229.
Except for the paintings and the photograph of my fast moving grandsons - the springtime photographs are from my file taken by Dean at Ephrata Cloister a few years ago.
Strawberry Sachets from her kit, gave them as gifts, made more, and happily gave those away as gifts. Perhaps with the knowledge that the roadside stands will soon be displaying their offerings of red ripe homegrown strawberries, Jennifer and Keren couldn't resist making a pint of red sachets, (left). These are a gift to a special friend who has been kind to their family. I'm in anticipation of strawberry season, aren't you?
Until Next Time,